Basic Effects on the Innovator 24/48

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Stevens R. Miller, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    I'm an absolute noob who has only been running my son's middle school's Innovator 24/48 for about two weeks now. I downloaded the manual and have studied it quite a bit. I'm a computer programmer, so the concepts aren't utterly foreign to me (in all humility, the book isn't really the best user's manual I've ever read, though).

    In the Introductions forum, Colin Bishop advised me to use Effects instead of linked Cues to obtain a simple, alternating light effect on two channels. I'm going to give it a try today, but would be very grateful if anyone familiar with the Innovator would have a look here and tell me if they see any problems ahead of time, as I am only able to get a few minutes here and there to teach myself how to use this amazing machine.

    I'm taking your advice, Colin. I read the chapter on Effects and it makes pretty good sense. Question for you: If I want two dimmers to alternate between 0 and FULL, do I need to set the dimmer that is at FULL to 0, in the subsequent step? That is, once a channel has been set to a given level in a step, does it stay at that level until being explicitly set to some other level in a subsequent step?

    What I have in mind is something like this:

    Code:
    Effect   1: Alternating Lights
         Type: Forward                1          2
                                 +--------+ +--------+
     Step   1:  Fade     01.0    |        | |        |
               Dwell     00.0    | CH  44 | | CH  45 |
                                 | LV  FL | | LV  00 |
                                 +--------+ +--------+
                                 +--------+ +--------+
     Step   2:  Fade     01.0    |        | |        |
               Dwell     00.0    | CH  44 | | CH  45 |
                         END     | LV  00 | | LV  FL |
                                 +--------+ +--------+
    I would define a cue for this as this:
    Code:
    [CUE] 1 [EFFECT] 1 [ENTER]
    Then play it in the A/B faders with this:
    Code:
    [LOAD] 1 [GO]
    Does that look promising? (Of course, I know I can just try it, but you have no idea how tight my time on the board is. The last class leaves and the director tends to start calling for specific lights within minutes. The more I can do to be ready ahead of time, the better.)
     
  2. Colin Bishop

    Colin Bishop ValleyPoint Church AVL Tech Premium Member

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    Setting the level to 0 would not harm anything and may help you keep your thoughts together about what is happening in the effect. It is however not required and only channels written into the step will turn on.
     
  3. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Whoa, thanks! I had assumed the opposite. Since there appear to only be four elements per step, is the proper way to control more channels through the use of Groups and/or Submasters?
     
  4. Colin Bishop

    Colin Bishop ValleyPoint Church AVL Tech Premium Member

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    Continue pressing the right arrow. There is more boxes. Also if you do run out of boxes groups and subs is the right way.
     
  5. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Oh, awesome! Looks like there are ten elements per step. With groups, that ought to be plenty.

    I programmed the effect as I defined it in my original post in this thread, then put it into Cue 1. As Cue 2, I just faded those channels to zero. I loaded Cue 1 into the A/B faders, pressed Go, and, indeed, the channels faded back and forth, exactly as I wanted them to, until I pressed Go again, at which point, they faded to black. Perfect.

    Next, I wanted to have some of the instruments on our number two electric do the same thing, albeit with longer fade times. I defined a different effect for that, and set it as Cue 10.

    That's when it all went south.

    I loaded Cue 10 itno the A/B faders, and pressed Go. Nothing happened. The Stage display showed 10 as the current cue, but none of the channels changed value. Cue 1 also stopped doing anything at that point. Thinking I had entered something incorrectly, I checked my work and redefined my cues. This time, my first effect ran when I loaded and played Cue 10, with still nothing happening on Cue 1. It just got messier from there.

    Since we had a performance to do (one number from the upcoming school play, done tonight as part of an awards ceremony), I assigned my two Effects to each of two submaster bump keys. Pressing and holding those keys down played each effect perfectly. In fact, I added a third effect and assigned that to a third submaster bump key. All three effects played perfectly whenever I pressed and held the assigned bump key for any or all of them. So, I know my effect definitions were correct. Somehow, I did something wrong, and that I don' t yet understand, when trying to play them back as parts of cues that I load into the A/B faders.

    Well, in theory, I have a few hours all to myself tomorrow in the theater. Maybe I can sort this out then. Most likely, it was the fact that I was trying to learn how to use part of this machine that I have never used before, while trying to get ready for an actual performance about two hours away, that simply got me so frazzled that I was making mistakes that, with less pressure in play, would have been apparent to me. (Oh, did I mention that our left house speaker decided to die during the rehearsal, and that I had to debug that at the same time? Not really ideal learning conditions, but I guess you gotta love theater, eh?)

    The Record Cue function works properly, so, even if I never am able to get effects to play back as parts of cues, I can record all the static cues we need for the show and play them back, one after the other, with the Go buttons. If we need any effects, I'll just assign them to bump keys and we'll play them that way.

    Thanks again for your help. It's really reassuring to have a few words from someone who knows what they're doing, when you're otherwise on your own in a new technical adventure.
     
  6. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    By the way, this is me, doing a little acting of my own before the performance (as I am wearing my, "I got this totally under control" face when, in fact, I was coming unglued over my cues not working):

    IMG_0335[1].JPG
     
  7. Colin Bishop

    Colin Bishop ValleyPoint Church AVL Tech Premium Member

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    I don't really exactly what happened with your cues in there. I would just make sure that your cues have times set on them and that the levels controlled by the effects are not recorded into the cues themselves that have the effects assigned to them.

    It can be hard to figure out some of this behavior without being there.
     
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  8. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Don't be too hard on yourself. Innovators aren't exactly known for being the most stable board out there. I have heard of them going rogue many times before. I'm sure that makes you feel much better... :)

    By the way - super excellent job in taking the reigns and really digging deep. Sounds like the kids are lucky to have you around. Definitely stick around even after you get the show up and running. It's always good to have new talent around here.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  9. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Good suggestions, I'll check those things. I am told that the school's electricians are coming today at 9:00 am to fix the burned out lights and to reposition them. I am also told that, after they are done, I have the theater to myself to experiment with all of this.

    On the other hand, I have been told that if you are good all year, Santa Claus will bring you a pony at Christmas. That's never happened, but, then, I suppose I have never been good for a whole year. Here's hoping the school's electricians are more forgiving than Santa.

    Heh. I am finding that it ain't no walk in the park, even when I am there, but I'm thankful for your help.
     
  10. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Actually, it really does, since it means maybe not all of my problems are the result of my own mistakes. For the most part, the Innovator has impressed me as a good tool. I go way back with computers, so I can easily recognize the Innovator's lineage as being descended from fairly early IBM/PC hardware. I did a little reading on the DMX 512 spec, too. It looks like it was inspired by (or is just similar to) MIDI. Nothing too complicated there, but it's easy to see how a unidirectional communications protocol could, as you say, go "rogue." The odd behavior I am seeing when I try to fade from one cue to another manually might really just be a firmware problem. If I can dig up a diskette drive from my hardware tomb and copy the latest (really, last) firmware upgrade from Leviton to a diskette, maybe that will help. As another CB poster pointed out, I don't really want to be using the faders manually anyway.

    One step at a time, I suppose.

    Thanks! The kids are awesome. All of them actually seem to want to be doing this, and doing it well. Since my son is in the production, I was eager to volunteer and the other adults who are making this all happen were glad to have me join in. The sad and frustrating part is that no one on the school staff has any responsibility for maintaining the Innovator. I'm learning this all from scratch because no one else knows anything about it. Apparently, it was purchased with PTA money, not school funds. In past years, when no one bothered to learn how to use it, the kids just ran the lights simply by moving the direct channel faders. But, someone (maybe more than one "someone") must have learned something about it, as there are a number of cues loaded into it. There were no groups defined, and no effects, though. Whomever preceded me with this thing knew enough to define cues and set submasters, but that's as far as they got. I'm glad to have this chance to do more with it, as it will help make a better show, and I am learning a lot. The problem, though, is that I don't know how to perpetuate what I am learning.

    I can teach the kids how to run it, but they are all headed to high school soon, and most likely won't be teaching what they know to incoming children. I can write a short user's guide on my own, one that is more directly comprehensible than Leviton's, but who is going to read it? My wife had a good idea, when she suggested I ask one of the technology teachers to take it on (instead of the music or art teachers). That makes sense because, hey, what tech guy doesn't like to play with a bunch of blinking lights? I'll do that, but it is far from certain that this will have lasting effect. It would only take one person being moved to another school to break the chain of knowledge.

    Now, I can volunteer next year, and maybe for a few years after that, to continue being their technical director. I'm sure another nerdy parent will come along whom I can pass the torch to at some point. Only worry I have there is, well... it's a middle school, and, with my son moving on to high school next year, I wouldn't want anyont to think it was creepy that a grown-up was hanging around when he didn't have child of his own in the school. I wouldn't be the only such adult volunteer: they have sports coaches and others who volunteer, and who don't have kids of their own in the school, so it's not unprecedented. It's just something be aware of, I think.

    Anyway, no matter where I do tech next, I am really having a very good time working on this production, and I am very glad to have found CB. Any advice folks have on how to get more involved as an amateur in this stuff will be most happily received!
     
  11. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Okay, for anyone who ever has similar problems and finds this thread in their search for answers, here are the reasons my Innovator wouldn't do my bidding:

    First, for a step to execute in an effect, its Fade + Delay times must add up to something greater than zero, or the step is skipped. Some of my "Effects" were one-step attempts to do something very simple, so I could prove the Effects were being executed within a Cue. By neglecting to add either a Fade or a Delay time, my Effects were executed within the Cues I assigned them to, they just didn't do anything, leaving me with the false impression that the Cues weren't executing them.

    Second, I needed to keep much better notes on my numbering. I had Cues with numbers, Groups with numbers, and Effects with numbers. The rest of the odd behavior I got out of my Innovator was all due to me using "Effect" 10 when I really meant to use Effect 5, which was setting levels for Group 10, and similar mistakes. As I expected, having all day today to deal with it calmly and methodically cleared that all up.

    Alas, this will all be academic, at least for Eagle Ridge Middle School, fairly soon. A number of the faders are showing signs of old age, by spontaneously changing value (often from zero to something like seven or eight, which is just enough to see in the instruments), or sometimes spontaneously emitting zeros when they are supposed to be at full, making whole Submaster groups flicker. Our dimmers seem to be in good shape, but the Innovator is going to need to be replaced soon. As I understand it, the DMX 512 protocol is easily produced by computers with appropriate USB adapters. Maybe there's a freeware or cheapware product someone can suggest to me to replace the Innovator?

    Regarding DMX, I found a piece of equipment mounted on the wall in the general vicinity of the lighting circuitry. If anyone can tell me what this is, I'd be grateful:

    IMG_0350[1].JPG
     
  12. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I hear your concerns load and clear. It is actually brought up here every so often. You are in a unique situation, however, as these conversations are usually started by graduating high school students. Middle schools do get the short end of the stick in that the kids only have three years there, at best, and tech theatre interest isn't usually piqued until high school. It looks like this school has a nicer-than-usual space though, so maybe the trend can be a bit different.

    As for who to take ownership of the console (which is very forward-thinking of you), my vote would go toward the theatre teacher. She doesn't need to become an expert at it, but some rudimentary knowledge is certainly expected on her part - even if it's just recording cues and subs. For the more advanced operations, write that "quick start" you were talking about, and hand it off to her as a reference tool. Even with boards I'm familiar with, I usually need a reference if I'm writing some exotic effect or otherwise doing something with it that I don't do very often.

    As for the Innovator faders, maybe they just need to be cleaned. I will say that jumping from zero to full is quite unusual even for a dirty fader, so it could be something else at play. Unfortunately, the innovator wasn't even very reliable when new, so thinking about a replacement would probably be prudent. Where software is concerned, it is out there and can be very effective, but I'm not sure I would recommend it. Most is pretty advanced (more so than needed for this space) and easy to get "lost" in, in addition to what is generally a cumbersome UI and lack of tactile controls. The faders, knobs, and overall 'mysterious' looking desk is what coerces a lot of kids to get in to tech (it did for me at least), so doing away with that might be a disservice. You can buy wings for software consoles, but they often cost as much as a simple standalone desk. On that topic, something the size of the Innovator might be overkill for that space. I didn't catch what all gear is in the facility, but I wonder if something like the Pathway Cognito might be a better fit. It's a little console with a touchscreen, faders, and plenty of blinky lights which is also compatible with today's technology where moving lights and especially LEDs are concerned. I don't have a ton of experience with the board, and it is a bit different, but might be something to look at moving toward.

    That panel in your last post -- where is it located? It appears to be some type of architectural station for turning on different lighting settings without having to go to the console. That's assuming it's lighting at all - it could be some kind of Crestron-type thing with control for a lot of other gear built-in (PA, projector, screen, etc). The DMX In should be able to serve as an alternate location for a lighting console, and the DMX Out should be able to send signal to additional lighting equipment such as dimmers, DMX (LED/Intelligent) fixtures, accessories, etc.
     
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  13. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you've got it pretty well figured out. We only have three years and the younger students are mostly not up to the challenge. Thus, even if an eighth-grader has learned enough to run the tech stuff, there's almost no one they can teach it to. It would really have to be a seventh-grader, which means someone has got to learn all the tech and pass it on to another student, every single year. One skipped year means all that knowledge is lost forever, and must be regained from scratch.

    I can see that I'm not the only person ever to cope with this, as the Innovator is full of Cues from some prior production. Perhaps somewhat tellingly, it has no Effects nor any Groups in it, though it does have several Submasters defined. Whomever it was that went before me, they only got so far. I'm a computer programmer, so the levels of indirection and the general nature of the programmable features in the device seem somewhat familiar. But, man, that user's manual is just a nightmare, no matter whom you are.
    Good point. An awful lot of what the device can do can be accomplished with recorded cues. The last production they did with it (one that I was not part of), they did all the lights completely manually. That is, they simply manipulated the channels directly with Faders 1-48. They found a very quick kid who literally memorized every setting. She's on my lighting crew this time and actually seems somewhat reluctant to learn how to record Cues (because, hey, she can memorize them, right?). But, even though I can understand that a 13-year-old thinks it's more fun to run the sliders up and down, once the Cues are all recorded and are in numerical order, just pushing "Go" over and over is clearly the most reliable path to a successful show. What I am hoping to teach her is that lighting is more about the set up than about the performance. There's a lot she can do with those faders to make the production great, but she has to realize that it gets done before opening night.
    I'll do it. I'm going to approach the art and music teachers, as well as the tech-ed teachers (and, my goodness, when did "tech-ed" become a subject?). I've written a number of quick-start guides over the years. This should be fairly easy. The real challenge will be to get a teacher to embrace the idea and keep it alive.
    The specific problem I'm having in that regard is a fader that, when full up, flickers down to zero and back. I'm guessing a dirty contact is just opening the circuit. What's the right way to clean them? Compressed air?
    Very insightful observation. I confess, that Mission Control board certainly got my attention right away, and I'm 57. A 13-year-old would think I had stolen their candy if I replaced it with a laptop. But it is showing signs of crumbling. It won't last forever, and it would be a true shame if all the rest of the hardware in that theater (48 dimmers, two electrics, and a complete DMX 512 interface) were to fall into disuse for lack of a simple controller of some kind.

    It turns out that these shows, when produced well, actually make the school a small profit. If that's the case again with the show we're doing now, I am going to ask the director (who is also a teacher, albeit at another school) to approach the principal with me, so we can have a discussion about how to use some of that profit to maintain the gear, and still return a bit of money to the school's discretionary fund. That will be a conversation more about money than about art, but I am told that is not entirely unheard of in the theater world.
    Dear Lord, you're not kidding! I did some Googling on that and found that the cost of a comparable set of faders and buttons to what's on the Innovator would, just as you say, cost more than the Innovator did itself. That's insane! Where do theaters get the dough for all this stuff? Dramatic arts people are known for living in poverty. I guess now I know why: all the money went to buy a lighting desk. There's got to be a cheaper way.

    When I was a toddler, my parents hung a thing called a "busy box" in my crib. It was just a set of knobs and wheels and what-nots that made noise and changed colors (you know, kind of like what I'm doing in that theater now :) ). Seems like somewhere in the world, there ought to be a USB busy box, one with purely generic controls that could be assigned to whatever a programmer assigned them to. I could handle that much coding, and (I think) make a pretty good DMX 512 device. Somewhere in all this, there may be a product idea, if we pursue it far enough...
    Oh, man, thanks! That looks awesome. Also, it looks small, which means it could be moved around from one school to another. If they were willing to schedule things appropriately, maybe it could even be shared. If not, it's still low enough in cost that a single school's PTA could take up a collection for one. I am going to think hard about that. I have done some fund-raising and, as all fund-raisers do, I know that getting donations is easiest when you can tell the donors exactly what the money is going to buy. One picture of that Cognito should be enough to shake loose a few bucks.
    It's on the wall just off stage left, in the wings, near the dimmers. In what I regard as a very dubious decision, the electricians who wired this school put a lot of the wires inside the cinderblock walks. The really high-amperage stuff is all in cable-conduit, so I can follow it by eye. This gizmo, however, is simply attached to the wall, with no visible cabling coming from or to it. Whatever it does, it does it with wires buried forever in those cinderblocks.

    Oh, and here's another dubious decision I found that I simply must share here: the number one electric (the batten with the instruments over the stage) hangs so close to the curtain that, when the curtain is opened and closed, it snags the backs of the instruments. The curtain itself literally sits on the backs of the lanterns when closed. Turned out that this was why they were all pointing in random directions. The clamps that can hold them in place had all gone loose and, when the curtain moved, it turned the lanterns as it snagged their back ends. I got the school system's electricians to lower the batten so we could reposition everything, clamp it down tight, and hoist it back up. But, it looks like a major fire hazard to me. The director took one look at it when I showed the situation to her and (thankfully!) made the instant decision that we would do the show with the curtain open at all times. I have no idea how to solve this, long term, as there doesn't seem to be any room up there to move things around (and that's assuming we could find the money to pay for the necessary work). But, my goodness, what a foolish way to install things.

    Thanks for the commentary on my situation. At the dawn of the internet age, people said online communication would somehow isolate us from each other, as we'd never leave our homes and stop socializing with other human beings. I believe the opposite has come true. I have more friends than ever, and can find more folks with common interests than would be possible without the modern global village. Pretty cool, imho.

    Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
  14. Scenemaster60

    Scenemaster60 Active Member

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    Stevens,

    Regarding the LCD panel that you pictured above, can you make it do anything?

    I have never encountered that particular panel before and since it has no markings on it, I am a bit stumped.

    Being that you have an Innovator console, I jumped to the conclusion that you have Colortran/NSI dimmers from about the years 2000-2005? The architectural controls that usually went with the era of the Innovator was called "Remembrance" and the panel you pictured is not a Remembrance panel!

    Do you know what brand of dimmers you have?

    As to the DMX in and out jacks:

    "DMX A IN" is just another place where you can connect the console or another device that produces a DMX signal to "talk" to the the main dimmer rack.

    "DMX B OUT" is most likely a secondary DMX run with an input in the booth, an opto-splitter/amplifier and multiple outlets around the auditorium that gives you the ability to use a second, hard-wired DMX universe for things like scrollers, moving lights, LED lights or other DMX intensive devices.
     
  15. Scenemaster60

    Scenemaster60 Active Member

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    Stevens,

    As to the situation of the back of the lights touching the curtain, that's not good! You are very lucky that you have not had a fire in that space.

    Would yoking the lights towards upstage be a helpful option?

    "Yoking" is a common industry term (and practice) which means clamping the light to the pipe so that it is not hanging directly under the pipe but rather ends up being next to the pipe. Often a designer or electrician will specify that lights be "yoked up" if they want them to be less visible. Or sometimes in a catwalk situation you find that you have to consistently "yoke forward" or "yoke back" get the angle you need without hitting the ceiling or a speaker, etc.

    As a picture is often worth a thousand words, in this "hang" the two fresnels on each side of circuit 47 are "yoked up". In this case it is to gain about 2 feet of additional throw on a top light. (The old ellipsoidal at 45 is also yoked up)

    IMG_2480.JPG

    In an ideal world, one should never need to yoke to avoid a light touching a curtain, but it may be a zero cost solution to make things safer and avoid the hassle of unintentional "moving lights"!
     
  16. Scenemaster60

    Scenemaster60 Active Member

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    I just realized that I mistakenly referred to the DMX jacks as "A" & "B" instead of "1" & "2" in my post above.

    Different manufacturers/designers/electricians use numbers OR letters when referring to DMX universes. Doesn't matter too much which you use as long as you are consistent in a room/design.
     
  17. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    I am reluctant to try, as I don't know what would happen if I pushed a button :eek:. Those two black buttons aren't even labeled. I've told my kids that, if I ever catch them "learning" what something does by trying it without knowing in advance, they will be banned from the show. Gotta live by what I preach, eh?

    Some Googling produced a couple of wiring diagrams that suggest the display is a "Unison Paradigm Portable Touchscreen." The diagrams were a bit cryptic (to me), but one guess I had was that these were limited function DMX controllers that could be used in an emergency to simply raise the house lights.

    Here are a couple of pics:
    IMG_0352[1].JPG

    IMG_0341[1].JPG

    IMG_0338[1].JPG

    IMG_0337[1].JPG

    I'd be very interested in anything you can tell me about this equipment, in particular the last two photos. In the second to the last one, what might the green LEDs signify? Anything amiss about the last LED being off?

    In the last picture, I am a bit anxious that one of the devices has a "DMX OK" LED lit, while the other one doesn't. (Yes, I will be asking permission to go over all this stuff with a vacuum cleaner soon or, at least, a feather duster.)

    While I was aghast at this discovery, it is heartening to have so many people take the issue seriously.

    This is an awesome idea. The space up there is pretty tight, but I bet there's room enough to use this technique. I will take your picture to the school on Monday and spread the word that this needs doing, soon. It's so cramped up where the bar is that moving it doesn't really seem feasible, but there may be space enough for yoking.

    Thanks so much for you input. I'm learning a lot, and having a good time, but safety first! While everyone is still gasping about this is probably the best time to push for a solution.
     
  18. Stevens R. Miller

    Stevens R. Miller Well-Known Member

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    To pursue yoking a bit more: Am I correct that all that is required is loosening the C-clamp that attaches the yoke to the pipe, rotating the yoke so it extends away from the pipe and is parallel to the floor (instead of hanging directly below the pipe), then tightening the C-clamp while the yoke is in that orientation?

    If so, are there any problems with balance, such that the weight of the instrument extending away from, instead of hanging underneath, the pipe causes the pipe to want to rotate around its long axis? I believe our pipe is not rigidly attached to anything but, instead, is hung from a pair of cables so it can be lowered to the stage.

    Thanks again!
     
  19. Scenemaster60

    Scenemaster60 Active Member

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    Stevens,

    I figured you most likely had Colortran i-series dimmers.

    The units at the bottom of the rack are the digital control modules that translate the DMX signal into the actual electrical signal that fires the electronic relays in the dimmer modules themselves.

    There are two because the lower one is an "online" backup that will take over if it senses a problem with the primary.

    These modules are very powerful and there are a lot of user-definable parameters that you can set either with the hand-held remote, or with a laptop running the configuration software and communicating via the serial port (remember this technology is easily 12 if not 15 years old! Remember 9-pin serial ports?)

    What I am more interested in as regards that LCD panel on the stage is the box that is immediately to the right of the dimmer panel that has the readable letters "ACG". Is this in any way connected to the dimmer rack? Or, is a separate system that just happens to be next to the rack?
     
  20. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    DFW, Tx.
    You are correct - that is exactly how it's done. It can cause the pipe to rotate/twist if it is hung from chain or GAC. The amount depends on how many instruments are hung, so maybe you can get away with only putting the minimum instruments there (such as area downlights 1-5) and moving color washes/special effects to the next batten. A lot of it is trial and error and it might cause less torquing than you expect.

    Those dimmer racks are dirty! When you have time, you might think about cleaning them up. It's easy to do, but there are a lot of safety hazards associated with it. The dimmer modules pull out and can be blown out one-by-one. There is also a door filter which probably needs to be cleaned. But I can't stress enough the amount of power behind there, so extreme care should be taken in de-energizing the racks and working carefully and methodically. I would get your maintenance staff involved -- not that they'll know anything about the stuff, but at least it will shift responsibility. There are more in-depth tutorials here as well as elsewhere online on best practices for cleaning dimmer racks and modules.

    Do take a look at the Pathway Cognito. A lot of more experienced lighting technicians find it awkward to work with due to the fact that it just handles things a little differently, but I think it would work well for students just starting out. It also has a lot of visual indicators and "eye candy" which is great for young players.

    I agree about your thoughts on the internet -- until I discovered sites like this one, I thought I was the only person in the world who was in to lighting. Sure I realized people did it as a job, but I didn't know there were others out there who actually liked it. Ironically, I was about middle school age when the internet really started taking off and appearing in people's homes.
     

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